Support Resources for Military Spouses
Let’s be honest: military life is not without its challenges. Between deployment, frequent PCS/TDY moves, your career, kids, and everything else that makes life so busy, things can sometimes get stressful.
But you’re resilient! You have to be to take on this lifestyle. The good news is you’ve got a huge support network behind you: other spouses who’ve been in your shoes, folks who are willing to lend an ear or a helping hand, and all kinds of organizations and federal programs in place to see you through to the brighter days ahead.
This guide will cover some of the support resources available to military spouses and families. From programs created and supported by the Department of Defense to online support communities geared towards spouses, there are plenty of ways to get the help and guidance you need.
Family Support Centers
First and foremost, if you need some help, it's important to know where to turn and what to expect. The DoD offers support to military families with a wide variety of programs and resources available on base through community centers. The extent and content of services varies between branches and locations, so there’s no one singular set of options available. You can check out one of the links below for specific information about the branch your spouse serves. The programs are:
All programs offered at these centers are free of charge. In order to get the most out of them, you may need a little background information, so let's get into some of the specifics.
There are two main types of marriage counseling available to service members and their spouses: medical and non-medical.
These programs work to address everyday issues like improving relationships both at home and at work, managing stress and anger, adjusting to deployment, and all sorts of parenting issues. Non-medical counseling typically encompasses a short-term, problem-solving approach. It's a great option if you're just looking to vent to someone who's good at listening, or looking for creative action items to correct a problem.
The service centers listed above usually feature Military Family Life Consultants, who are licensed, experienced clinical practitioners who often hold masters or doctorate degrees. They can help with all kinds of short-term concerns, but they can also refer you to other health and public service agencies when appropriate, so you don't have to search for them alone.
In addition to the physical locations on base, you can also reach out to these consultants any time by calling the Defense Centers of Excellence Outreach Center at 866-966-1020 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another non-medical option is Military OneSource, which offers similar counseling options. They can help refer you to a licensed professional in your area or plug you into a civilian community at no cost. You can talk to them either face-to-face or over the phone for up to 12 sessions per issue you're facing. For more information, call 800-342-9647 or visit the Military OneSource website.
Lastly, the National Military Family Association offers marriage enrichment programs that you may find useful. Some programs are specific to crisis situations, while others can offer more general tips and advice about effective communication, money management, and marriage commitment. They're generally sponsored by the installation chaplain. For more information, contact your family support center.
Of course, it's not always about short-term problem solving. Medical counseling is designed for more serious, long-term issues like substance abuse, psychological concerns, dealing with PTSD, and many more complicated issues that may adversely affect a relationship. Your family support center is a good place to start, because they can assess your specific situation and refer you to someone who can help. Most often, you'll be evaluated and treated at a Military Medical Treatment Facility so they can decide the best way to get you the care you need. For more information, visit TRICARE's section on mental health.
Support From Your Peers
Whether it’s face-to-face or online, there are a ton of peer support groups ready to welcome you with open arms by providing a strong sense of community. You can check out the National Resource Directory (NRD) and Military OneSource to help find support groups in your local community. It’s a great way to make friends and establish connections with people who understand your unique situation because they’ve been in your shoes. Your family support center or your installation chaplain can also help plug you into these kinds of communities.
On the NRD directory, you can search by city, state, or zip code to track down access to a variety of resources on many different topics, including benefits and compensation, education and training, employment, health, and a multitude of others.
Military OneSource frequently offers webinars on a variety of topics, from parenting to money management. You can access their extensive archive and watch a whole library of webinars for free by vising their website.
One of the largest support groups out there is Army Wife Network. They cover a wide variety of topics relevant to military spouses of all branches, so don’t let the name fool you. From deployment, PCS and travel, health and fitness, to career and education – whatever interests you, it’s easy to join the conversation and connect to spouses just like you. You can even join their party chat on Twitter using the hashtag #armywife.
Another great network is Blue Star Families, which partners with USAA and offers lots of opportunities to attend events both in-person and virtually to not only network and make new connections, but also to offer support to other service members and their families who are going through the same kinds of things you may be. They also work with the National Endowment for the Arts, which is why you have free access to over 2,000 museums nationwide. If you just need a quick getaway, a cheap vacation, or a chance to connect to other spouses just like you, Blue Star Families is a great place to start.
The last point here probably has the biggest online footprint: Facebook groups, forums, and blogs. We could spend all day linking to individual groups or websites, but that takes the joy out of finding them yourself! Here’s a great list of Facebook groups to get you started.
Whether you’re interested in starting your own public blog, a private journal, or if you’d rather just join the conversation in the comment section of a site like ArmyWife101 or the Military.com forums, military spouse blogs are a great way to help cope with whatever it is you’re going through.
Military.com has a lot of great resources to support your career aspirations. From jobs on base, in your local exchange or commissary, to federal government positions, or even opportunities in the civilian space, they have tons of tools and resources to help you make a career of your own, so be sure to check out their section on spouse employment. They also have a job search tool similar to one you’d find in the civilian space. Choose your branch, status, and zip code, and search for all kinds of job opportunities in your area.
Other organizations like Military Spouse J.D. Network helps professionals with job portability and easing the process of certification in new states. With frequent PCS moves that spouses often have to endure, it’s more important than ever to have a portable career that you can take with you wherever you go.
Of course you have all the resources discussed above at your disposal – Military OneSource, blogs, and forums all offer access to financial education resources and allow you to get involved in ongoing discussions with other spouses just like you. If you need more support, there also plenty of private organizations like Army Emergency Relief (AER), Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) that can offer emergency loans as well as one-on-one, face-to-face financial counseling.
For tips on money management, repairing your credit, and other financial education resources, check out our Military Spouse Finance Guide.